Writings and observations

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

“WHAT? Dan Popkey is going to work for Raul Labrador?”

That was the typical reaction when Popkey, the face of the Idaho Statesman, announced that he was leaving to accept the position as Labrador’s press secretary. Popkey, the most talented political writer in the state, will now be in charge of defending Labrador’s tea party positions and organizing photo-ops with the likes of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

The move seems strange, given the fact that Labrador seemingly has gone through more press secretaries than toilet paper in his four years in office. But I can understand Popkey’s thinking. At 55, he was stuck in a high-stress job that was going nowhere.

I’ve seen him tied up in knots, and that’s hell on a person’s blood pressure over time. I’ve seen him at meaningless governor’s photo-op ceremonies, just so he could ask Otter one question without going through the spin doctors. He’s working in an environment that it common to so many newspapers, where layoffs and unpaid furloughs are a way of life. Just about everybody who works for a newspaper these days – any newspaper – is being asked to do more with fewer resources, and Popkey was no exception.

With Labrador, Popkey can work at a more manageable pace and have a better sense of job security. There’s always a chance that Labrador will run for the Senate, or governor’s office, but my guess is he won’t go for those unless he’s sure he can win. In the meantime, Labrador has a safe seat and the national media loves him. He could stay in Congress for as long as Popkey wants to work.

“It’s bittersweet to leave journalism, my first love, but I’m thrilled with the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned to help advance our state’s priorities in Washington,” Popkey said in a statement.

Actually, it won’t work that way at all. Popkey’s job – in fact, his only job – is to serve a congressman who has a strong will, even stronger convictions and an ego the size of Texas. This is no criticism of Labrador. From the beginning, he has known where he is going and how to get there.

Popkey will become a “real” press secretary the first time he has to write a news release, or commentary, that defends a position contrary to Popkey’s personal views. In this case, it could be a monthly occurrence.

The hiring of Popkey provides some adjustments for Labrador. Listening to advice is not one of Labrador’s strong points, but in this case it will pay for him to listen to somebody who has been around as long as Popkey.

But Popkey’s success will not be determined by how much Labrador accepts advice. It will be how he helps improves accessibility with the media. Labrador is treated like a king with the national media, but often is trashed by the Idaho media – and not just the editorial writers. Reporters can attest that getting interview time with Labrador is next to impossible.

Labrador and Popkey would do well to follow the lead of former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, a former longtime chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. When I was covering Hamilton with the small-town New Albany Tribune (across the bridge from Louisville), he was swamped with interview requests from the national media. But as I was told that my interview requests managed to find their way to the top of the pile.

Labrador will continue to get national media coverage, but he needs to remember who elected him. And he would do well never to let a negative editorial pass without comment. There are always at least two sides to political debates and Labrador-Popkey should not allow themselves to be defined by liberal editorial writers and moderate-leaning editorial boards.

If Popkey thinks he’s the guy who could tame Labrador’s inflated ego, then he’s sadly mistaken. But if Labrador listens, he could end up being a more open and better congressman with Popkey at his side.

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First Take


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Rapid decline among aspen trees (IF Post Register)
IF council, mayor at odds over budget (IF Post Register)
Port of Lewiston not expecting coal shipments (Lewiston Tribune)
Corrections dials down complaints with CCA (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon Co animal shelter policies questioned (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon jail labor detail work halted (Nampa Press Tribune)
Dick’s sporting goods coming to Twin Falls (TF Times News)
Considering wolf control on conservation lands (TF Times News)

Whole Foods finally comes to Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Visions develop for EWEB riverside site (Eugene Register Guard)
Debating how much money legal pot could make (KF Herald & News)
New wildfires erupt (Medford Tribune)
Improving picture at PERS balance sheet (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Smart speed limit signs on urban freeway (Portland Oregonian)
Criminal defense lawyers for former Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian)

Ferry breakdown still unexplained (Bremerton Sun)
Manchester project may still be blocked (Bremerton Sun)
Corporate ownership of Kitsap Sun changes (Bremerton Sun)
Courthouse planning group changes (Everett Herald)
Hot summer has helps area crops (Kennewick Herald)
DOE plan hoped to help groundwater contamination (Kennewick Herald)
Backers of PUD recall have to pay legal costs (Longview News)
Boeing will build Dreamline in South Carolina (Longview News)
Seattle VA wait times were manipulated (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Pam Roach in hot primary contest (Seattle Times)
Tacoma pot store to open this week (Tacoma News Tribune)

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First Take

frazier DAVID


Just yesterday a group of political has-beens and news junkies were chatting over coffee bemoaning the state of local journalism.

“Popkey still has some pretty good sources. He is pretty much the go-to-guy at the Statesman if you want something printed,” said one of the old-time news guys. He added, “He has a list of stories to write, so he is never out of material.”

Well…so much for that! Dan Popkey has fled the sinking news ship fleet and like most of his fellow sailors, he will begin slurping at the public trough (of U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador) where the rations are much richer than the private sector. Popkey, 55, has spent most of his adult life at the Statesman, nearly 30 years.

We wish him well and offer a heartfelt “thanks” for exposing so many inside stories about Idaho politicos while covering Idaho politics. It saddens us to think he is now one of them. Not a real surprise since most of the AP staffers and former Statesman capitol writers have ended up sucking the government teat.

Since the first of the year we have seen the Associated Press lose Todd Dvorak to the Idaho Attorney General PR machine, fellow AP staffer John Miller left the country to do PR work in Switzerland, and now Popkey has joined the darling of TV’s Meet The PRess, Rep. Raul Labrador.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Court says Peterson’s out, party will meet (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Boise business BookLamp bought by Apple (Boise Statesman)
Reduced number of sex crimes reported in Idaho (IF Post Register)
Lewiston port gets fiber optic line (Lewiton Tribune)
Nampa building ramps up, almost doubling 2013 (Nampa Press Tribune)
Big growth at Greenleaf Friends Academy (Nampa Press Tribune)
Blackfoot mayor mulls covering expenses (Pocatello Journal)
Court backs Blaine in records denial to CNN (TF Times News)
State land managers seeking policy input (TF Times News)

Eye testing now required in Oregon schools (Eugene Register Guard)
Salmon hit by drought conditions (KF Herald & News)
Muslin charity pleads guilty on tax charges (Ashland Tidings)
Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings launch new web site (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Two Medford council veterans depart (Medford Tribune)
Hermiston charter may revise office terms (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Delegation seeks funds for Columbian cleanup (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Review of east Portland’s political weakness (Portland Oregonian)

Kitsap prosecutor race draws varying support (Bremerton Sun)
Some logging planned in central Kitsap park (Bremerton Sun)
Park and ride planned for Mukilteo (Everett Herald)
Cowlitz, Wahkiakum end pot business bans (Longview News)
New park developing in western Olympia (Olympian)
First pot business approved for Olympia (Olympian)
Olypnia Natl Park chalet moved away from river (Port Angeles News)
Windfall in Sequim sewage fund (Port Angeles News)
Amgen, Puget’s largest biotech firm, to close (Seattle Times)
Top Seattle health leader quits (Seattle Times)
Tacoma citizen group okays Amtrak plan (Tacoma News Tribune)
Pierce Council writes ‘In God We Trust’ on wall (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Co voters will vote on bridge in November (Vancouver Columbian)
Legislator home burglary points up phone law need (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


In politics there are rarely coincidences. Additionally, sometimes an event occurs which one can read much more into than just the surface appearance. It becomes a telltale indicator of something more significant than one at first glance would think.

One of these “more than meet the eyes” events happened in Idaho Falls on the evening of the 4th of July and went largely unnoticed by what Texas Senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz calls the “chattering class”—the political pundits and commentators.

Multi-millionaire and Melaleuca founder Frank Vandersloot sponsors a well attended 4th of July fireworks show. Its his way of showing his patriotism as well as his appreciation for “the shining city on the hill” as Ronald Reagan so eloquently once put it when describing the still greatest country on the earth.

Vandersloot is justly proud of this event and he often has a special guest. His guest this year not surprisingly was an Idaho gubernatorial candidate. What was surprising was that the guest was neither Tea Party endorsed State Senator Russ Fulcher nor was it incumbent Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. It was none other than the Democratic nominee, Boise businessman A.J. Bulakoff.

The “chattering class” as well as the general voting public ought to sit up and take notice for this could portend more than Vandersloot just covering himself in case Bulakoff pulls off the upset. It could signal that the traditional Republican Latter Day Saint vote is starting a seismic shift away from the incumbent governor.

There is no question that most LDS voters mark their ballots for the Republican candidates, and in the past some Democratic strategists have made the mistake of assuming that Mormon voters would go for a Mormon Democrat in good standing over a non-Mormon Republican.

Otter himself disproved this gambit four years ago in dispatching Mormon gubernatorial nominee Keith Allred, as did then Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne when he won a race for a U.S. Senate seat by defeating Second District Congressman Richard Stallings.

A. J. Bulakoff though just may be an exception to this general rule that LDS voters vote party first and their religion second. While he is smart enough not to wear his religion on his sleeve, nor ever even to make a pitch to voters based on a common held set of beliefs, it is well known among the LDS community that he is a Saint in good standing, has the so-called “temple pass,” is a graduate of the “Y” (Brigham Young University in Provo), has a large and loving family, and is happily maried to Susie Skaggs, one of the heirs to the Skaggs Drugstore chain.

Additionally, A.J. is a largely self-made multi-millionaire who, like Vandersloot, has enjoyed considerable success in the business world.
Vandersloot is nobody’s fool and has adroitly played the political game for years. He recognizes that public policy is all about politics, whether local, state, or national. Thus, he takes an interest in races from local judgeships to presidential elections.

He was and is a prominent suppporter of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency and was co-chair of Romney’s Finance committee. The list of Idaho contributors to Romney’s campaign reads like a “who’s who” not just of Idaho Republicans but also the Idaho LDS faithful. Vandersloot also employs Damond Watkins as a government affairs assistant.

Damond, son of former Idaho Falls State Senator Dane Watkins, is arguably one of the savviest and shrewdist political operatives in Idaho. Both he and his boss have to know that having A.J. as a guest is tantamount to giving a “testimonial” the Sunday before an election as to what a fine fellow Saint folks have in A. J. It a clear signal that its ok to vote for him if one agrees.

The question then is why would Vandersloot send such a mixed signal? Perhaps they’ve seen polls showing an electorate reluctant to reward Butch with a third term when he has done little to earn it. Or they could believe the governor shares culpability for the disarray in the State Republican Party.

Or it could be something as simple as Butch has allegedly never accepted Vandersloot’s invitation to be his guest at the Fireworks show. It did not escape notice that both the governor and Lori rode their horses in the 4th of July Parade earlier in the day¸but then did not stay for the show.

Former Congressman and political science professor at BYU-Idaho, Richard Stallings, thinks it is a foregone conclusion A.J. will win in November because many LDS voters, especially the younger ones, have decided its time for a change.

Those close to the Otter campaign no doubt will tag this as pure poppycock. They will correctly cite that both Frank and his wife have maxed out in their contributions to the governor’s campaign and that Otter has attended other events to which Vandersloot has invited him.

As one colleague put it: “Frank Vandersloot is first a Republican, second a millionaire and third a Mormon.” Time will tell.

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Carlson Idaho

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

Don’t look at me to handicap the Miss America Pageant in September. I do a lousy enough job picking winners of sporting events and political elections and I can’t remember the last time I saw a Miss America Pageant.

I will make an exception this year and make a point to watch the competition on television on Sept. 14. And I will go out on a limb and say that Miss Idaho, Sierra Anne Sandison of Twin Falls, has a decent shot at winning. No, she does not hail from the South, or Midwest, which produce long lines of past winners. A Miss Idaho has never won. But Sierra has something that few others have – a compelling story. And all she had to do was walk on stage during the swimsuit competition of the Miss Idaho Pageant with an insulin pump attached to her side.

BOOM! The social media exploded with a photo of this gorgeous 20-year-old woman confidently walking with her beautiful smile and perfect body. Her insulin pump suddenly became a fashion statement and she has encouraged others to “Show Your Pump.” Sierra has become an inspiration to 26 million people living in the United States who have diabetes and the nearly 80 million people who have pre-diabetes. She is proof that diabetes can be managed, the harmful effects can be reversed and diabetes does not stop people from living their dreams. The late Ron Santo, a Hall of Fame baseball player, had the disease and Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler has it.

I, too, am living proof that diabetes is manageable – although I’m no match to Sierra in terms of beauty, grace and charm. Better management has allowed me to overcome blindness and open-heart surgery and keep a mild case of kidney disease in check. I’m 64 years old and never felt better. 
I enjoy hearing stories about people overcoming obstacles such as diabetes, so I was bowled over by Sierra’s story about winning the Miss Idaho Pageant and I’m sure many other people were, too.

Sierra, no doubt, will get some great coaching on her way to the Miss America competition. One of her supporters is Nicole Johnson, who knows a thing or two about winning pageants. She was Miss America in 1999 and won while wearing an insulin pump. Johnson has continued to stay involved with the American Diabetes Association and on the front lines of the war against this “silent killer.” Johnson’s story made Sierra realize it was OK to wear an insulin pump in competition and Sierra has inspired others, including 12-year-old McCall Salinas, Miss Idaho’s Outstanding Preteen. McCall, who has diabetes, was backstage during the Miss Idaho pageant, cheering on Sierra. After the event, McCall told her mom she was ready to get an insulin pump to better manage the disease.

“It brought me to tears,” Sierra wrote.

Seeing the photo of her walking the stage in the Miss Idaho contest doesn’t tell the story of the heartaches and challenges that came from being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – which means her pancreas cannot produce insulin. She tells it well in her official Miss Idaho blog.

“My world was flipped upside down by my diabetes diagnosis,” she wrote. For a while, I pretended that I didn’t have diabetes, hoping it would go away. That led to crazy blood sugars, of course, and a very sick, grumpy and discouraged Sierra.”

In her case, denial led to acceptance, which opened the door for this young woman to be the inspiration she is.

So, does she have a chance to win? Let’s review the criteria: “Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a combination of beauty, grace and intelligence, artistic and refined. She is the type which the American girl might well emulate.”

If this is the standard, then give her the crown now and play a clip of old Bert Parks belting out the tune, “Here she is …” No one could possibly argue that she isn’t “America’s ideal.”

But remember this if those stuffy judges give it to someone else. Sierra doesn’t need another crown to prove that she’s a winner in life.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Idaho 16 extension opens August 15 (Boise Statesman)
Idaho Power, others moving into solar power (Boise Statesman)
Clarkston chief may be Asotin interim sheriff (Lewiston Tribune)
Ringo calls for raising the minimum wage (Lewiston Tribune)
Boise Co-op opens Nampa location (Nampa Press Tribune)
NNU library to open in October (Nampa Press Tribune)
Departments in Canyon County seek expansions (Nampa Press Tribune)
Research accelerators okayed for ISU (Pocatello Journal)

New fires after Beatty’s contained (KF Herald & News)
Eugene council okays rule on sick leave (Eugene Register Guard)
Mt Ashland regroups after ‘disastrous’ winter (Medford Tribune)
Ashland home prices rising (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton library struggles with budget (Pendleton E Oregonian)
$100 million gift sent to OHSU cancer center (Portland Oregonian)
Medicaid expansion hasn’t expanded doctors (Portland Oregonian)
PERS finances reported on stabler ground (Salem Statesman Journal)

Shellfish at Port Gamble found clean (Bremerton Sun)
Bethel Junction, Port Orchard, shopping center sold (Bremerton Sun)
Legislator considers bill to let police ping (Everett Herald)
Being employment falls by 20k since 90s (Everett Herald)
Boardman coal power plant use in decline (Kennewick Herald)
Protesters target animal rules in Forks (Port Angeles News)
Unified business group may fall apart (Port Angeles News)
Is there board-staff conflict at Seattle schools? (Seattle Times)
Will Spokane’s new downtown hotel draw? (Spokane Spokesman)
Riverfront bond issue at Spokane hits ballot (Spokane Spokesman)
Why is ‘In God We Trust’ on Pierce agenda? (Tacoma News Tribune)
Little Vancouver backing for new bridge plan (Vancouver Columbian)
Pot smoking tent illegal but shutdown unlikely (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

tolo bridge

Spanning Interstate 5 north of Central Point, the 58-year old Tolo Road Bridge (milepost 36) will undergo repairs, which requires a six-week closure to traffic beginning Monday, July 28. Local traffic will use Willow Springs Road as a detour. The Tolo Road Bridge is being repaired to extend its life and prevent it from being load-limited. The Tolo Road Bridge rehabilitation is part of the same project that is repaving I-5 from Rock Point (exit 43) to Evans Creek (MP 49). Knife River of Central Point is the prime contractor. . (photo/Department of Transportation)

Check out this week’s list of wildfires around Oregon – a list nearly as long as the list of wildfires all across the country. The saving grace is that none of them were of the enormous size (none anywhere close to as large as Washington’s Carlton Complex) but they add up to a lot.
Fire was an even bigger story in Washington, where the Carlton Complex turned into the biggest single fire in the state’s history.
And fire season still is early.

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idaho RANDY

TVW is one of Washington’s marvels – the closest equivalent to CSPAN the Northwest has.
CSPAN is so rigorously neutral that it could be taken for a government operation, although it – like TVW – is actually a nonprofit that simply watches government very closely, televising legislative hearings, official events, interview programs and so on.
That it isn’t actually a part of government comes up every so often, such as when it sought to stream action on the floor of Congress (there was a dustup over that). And now TVW has a dustup of a structurally related sort.
Earlier this year the Washington Legislature tried to get a handle on regulating the use of drones in Washington air space, specifically restricting their use by government agencies. Governor Jay Inslee vetoed the measure, apparently less out of broad philosophical disagreement but because he wanted an independent group, a task force, to take a run at it. In the meantime he issued an order to state agencies: No drones for now.
TVW has latched on to the subject and wanted to do a program about drone policy. That wasn’t a problem, but this was: It wanted to launch a drone and send it around the statehouse, maybe to give a sense of what they’re like and what they’re capable of. An Olympian article said that after reporter Christina Salerno, a state Department of Enterprise Services official responded, “While we can appreciate your desire to fly a quadcopter—a drone—around the Capitol Building and the campus, we are denying your request. The reasons include our concern that the use of this device for filming the campus may violate the privacy of tenants and visitors as well as posing an unnecessary public safety risk for those who may be below its flight path. Additionally, we believe this activity could unreasonably disrupt normal conduct of state business.”
For now, that can be attributed simply to wariness, and uncertainty about the implications of seemingly small current actions. But as policies get hammered out in the months and years to come, we may be seeing a lot more drones and a lot more requests that may be harder to comfortably deny. And from organizations not nearly as normally plugged in as TVW.

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Washington Washington column


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise airport plans eatery replacement (Boise Statesman)
Tribes pushing for return of salmon (Boise Statesman)
Board of Education newcomers cite goals (Nampa Press Tribune)
CSI plans expansion in Jerome (TF Times News)
Reviewing work of Office of Performance Evaluations (TF Times News)

Looking at new UO chemistry, physics cluster (Eugene Register Guard)
Safeway, Albertsons merger okayed by shareholders (Ashland Tidings)
Home prices rising at Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
More hot weather coming at Medford (Medford Tribune)
Fast jets deployed in fire fighting (Portland Oregonian)
Salem council to review Howard Hall again (Salem Statesman Journal)

Kitsap may see labor shortage (Bremerton Sun)
Shonomish Co union gets benefits settlement from county (Everett Herald)
Washington rare in No Child waiver rejection (Kennewick Herald)
Another Columbia bridge plan released (Longview News)
Increase in homeless on Olympic peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Debating possible med school at WSU (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell dies (Seattle Times)
Spokane Transit okays longer trolley line (Spokane Spokesman)
Firefighting in WA so far has cost $50m (Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian)
Vancouver restaurant plans to be pot-friendly (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take